Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Made this last Thursday night. Be forewarned, it’s not falafel as you might expect to find it in a restaurant; maybe a better term would be “chickpea burger” or “hummus fritter.” Whatever it is, it’s good: light, healthy, not hard to make. Basically you’re just making a modified, thicker, cheerfully green version of hummus—pureeing garbanzos in the blender with seasonings—and then pan-frying it. The cayenne adds a nice, subtle heat, nicely balanced by the cool, refreshing cilantro-lemon yogurt sauce.

I’ve had this recipe for ages, taken from some long-forgotten source. I made it for the first time when I was living the swingin’ studio-apartment life in St. Paul, and it didn’t turn out so great, so I shelved it. When I unearthed it again after my move to California, I nearly got rid of it. Instead, I gave it another try, and I’m so glad I did. With a bit more cooking experience under my belt, I realized my problem the first time around had been that the recipe was just bonkers. Pureeing the ingredients in the blender creates a smooth, sticky, semi-liquid batter, like a stiff hummus. Yet somehow, the recipe was asking me to form this mess into patties with my hands and dredge them in flour, an endeavor that naturally led to less-than-perfect results. It seemed much more sensible to treat the mixture like a fritter batter, which is what I did: I just stirred in a bit of extra flour to give it some body, spooned it into the pan in four separate dollops, and squashed each one down. I also made sure to get the oil good and hot, something I was always too lily-livered to do as a beginning cook. With these modifications, the falafels fried up perfectly, making the recipe a keeper. Finally, my obsession with fritters pays off!

1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup chopped onion
5 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons plus ½ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 large egg
olive oil
4 warm pocket pita breads, cut in half
sliced tomatoes

1. Whisk yogurt, ½ cup cilantro, ¼ cup onion, 1 chopped garlic clove, lemon juice, and ¼ teaspoon cayenne in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Chill until ready to serve.

2. Blend garbanzo beans, 3 tablespoons flour, cumin, remaining ½ cup cilantro, 4 garlic cloves, and ¼ teaspoon cayenne in a blender or food processor until almost smooth. Add egg and remaining ¾ cup onion and blend until onion is finely chopped. Transfer mixture to bowl; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Gradually mix in about ¼ cup more flour, until batter reaches desired consistency.

3. Pour enough oil into a large, heavy skillet to coat the bottom; heat over medium-high heat. When fully hot, drop in ¼ of the batter and press down with the back of a spoon to make a patty. Repeat with remaining batter to make 4 patties. Cook until crisp and golden, about 8 minutes per side.

4. Cut each patty in half. Slide a half patty, sliced tomato, and lettuce into each pita pocket. Spoon in some yogurt mixture.

Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes

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